U.S. grains: Soy edges higher after China sales

Chicago | Reuters — U.S. soybean futures edged higher on Wednesday as the government confirmed more soy purchases by China, but the market remained largely static as traders waited for a raft of U.S. crop data due on Friday, some of it delayed by the government shutdown.

Corn futures eased for the first time in four sessions. Wheat ended mixed, although the market remained underpinned by tightening supplies in Russia, which has fuelled hopes for increased demand for U.S. exports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is scheduled to release a long list of crop forecasts and estimates on Friday after key reports were delayed due to the 35-day partial government shutdown. Traders are unsure of how timely the information will be, particularly export demand data.

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“The USDA numbers are the driver that is keeping participants on both sides of the market on the sidelines,” said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics.

Chicago Board of Trade March soybeans settled up 1-1/2 cents at $9.21-3/4 a bushel and March corn was down 3/4 cent at $3.80 a bushel (all figures US$).

CBOT March wheat ended 1-1/4 cents lower at $5.26 a bushel in a profit-taking setback after earlier technical buying took prices to a seven-week high of $5.31-1/4. Deferred contracts were mostly higher.

Soybeans drew support from USDA confirmation of more export sales to China following a vow by Beijing last week to purchase five million tonnes as a goodwill gesture during trade talks with the United States.

Private exporters sold 586,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans to China and 182,000 tonnes to unknown destinations, the USDA said on Wednesday. That followed confirmation on Monday and Tuesday of nearly 3.5 million tonnes in soybean sales.

Gains in soybeans were tempered by improving weather in South America and an accelerating harvest in Brazil.

The harvest in Brazil’s second-largest producing state of Parana is well ahead of last season, with limited damage to the fields from drought, state agricultural research body Deral said on Tuesday.

Corn, meanwhile, was weighed down by stronger South American production prospects as rains in dry Brazilian crop areas were seen boosting the country’s second-crop corn.

Wheat futures remain underpinned by growing signs of declining export competition from Russia, where grain exports are seen slowing as high domestic prices make it harder for exporters to offer competitive prices, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

— Karl Plume reports on agriculture and ag commodities for Reuters from Chicago; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore.

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